Do You Outline?

The Benefits of Thinking Ahead

An outline is a great way to organize your thoughts and the flow of your book whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction.

The biggest reason I am an advocate of outlining is because it helps you determine the larger purpose of your book. Your book may be about a fictional character, but the theme of your book may be about the necessity of change for progress. This is especially important for nonfiction–you want to book to flow and have purpose…when you outline your novel before you write it, you can make sure the basic elemental pieces of the story support your underlying theme.

Outlining also helps you make decisions about sub-plots, sub-themes and whether or not an idea will fit into a book. One writer told me, “If you have to work hard to keep something in your book, it probably shouldn’t be in your book.” Writing an outline helps you see this before you’ve spent hours writing and rewriting to make something fit.

Outlining helps you keep your characters in line. When you outline your characters you set parameters for them to work within…this way they don’t do anything that takes away from the overall story–even if they really, really want to.

And finally outlining helps you keep your story moving. There is nothing worse than reading a story that feels like it didn’t go anywhere. Outlining the story gives you a rough path to follow so you keep your reader moving in the right direction. This doesn’t mean you can’t meander across and back along that path…it just means there is always forward motion in your story so your reader stays engaged.

What does an outline look like? In short, whatever you want it to look like. I’ve learned that organizing thoughts is a very personal matter.

You’ve probably seen these online…they were all over Facebook during the summer of 2013, but here’s a look at some famous author’s outlines (and my loose interpretation about what we can learn from them).

1. Your outline doesn’t have to be typed

JK RowlingJK Rowling

2. Your outline can be more than one page

outline j hellerHeller

3. Your outline doesn’t have to be elaborate

henry millerMiller

4. And finally, your outline doesn’t even have to be on paper!



So, do you outline? How does it help you? Please comment below!